Des Moines Register Columnist Rekha Basu: "This moment belongs to Obama, he promises a new chapter"

Amazing endorsement of Obama by Basu! 


December 19, 2007

I remember wishing Hillary Clinton would run. Not last January, when she announced, but before the 2004 election, when someone with her intellectual heft and stature was needed to stand up to the Bush/Rove/ Rumsfeld cabal and dismantle its agenda.

But Clinton didn't run then, and when she jumped into this year's race, days after Barack Obama, it was a different field and a different moment.

This moment belongs to Obama.

This newspaper has endorsed Clinton on the Democratic side. I respect its decision. But after sitting through most of the same candidate meetings, watching, reading, listening and searching my conscience, I've concluded Obama is the one who can best pull off what needs to happen.

Clinton is smart, hard-working, gutsy and tough enough to absorb all the muck that's come her way. But Obama is simply a better candidate. He's that rarest of leaders, combining roots in white Midwestern America with black Africa, and experience both organizing in barrios and editing the Harvard Law Review. He's got idealism, compassion and intellect. And he lacks the baggage Clinton comes with, including all the controversies that swirled around her husband's White House. Nor is he compromised, as she has been, by the Senate vote that got us into this quagmire in Iraq.

Clinton is likable – and polarizing. But Obama is a uniter whose very life experience promises a new chapter for America.

 Who can unite a divided public and excite people's sense of possibilities? That's where Obama leaves the rest of the pack behind.

Momentum is a hard thing to quantify. It almost has to be understood viscerally. I witnessed it in Hy-Vee Hall a couple of weeks ago, sandwiched between an unprecedented 18,000 people, all sharing a palpable sense of enthusiasm and hope. They were black, white, Latino, Asian, old, young, middle-aged and disabled.

Many had probably come to see Oprah. But when it was Obama's turn, he had them mesmerized. Some cheered and waved signs in the air. Some hugged one another, and some even got teary. It was as if no one could quite believe this youthful but commanding man, who spoke their language and echoed their dreams, might actually run America.

Now is also the time to signal the world that America is not a monolithic dinosaur but dynamic and evolving, harnessing its diversity to enhance its strength. Obama could do that.

About the Author(s)

dems will win

  • he lacks the baggage

    but he’s also never been through a tough campaign. That worries me a lot.

    • Actually Obama went through a very tough campaign: the Democratic primary for Senate

      In early polls leading up to the March 16, 2004, primary election, candidate Blair Hull enjoyed a substantial lead and widespread name recognition resulting from a well-financed advertisement effort. He contributed over $28 million of his personal wealth to the campaign. However, Hull was soon embroiled by allegations of domestic abuse. Challenger Barack Obama, an Illinois state senator, won endorsements from four Illinois congressmen and former DNC chairman David Wilhelm, gradually increasing his name recognition among voters.

      In the final weeks of the campaign, Obama’s primary campaign gathered support from favorable media coverage and an effective advertising campaign designed by David Axelrod. The ads featured images of U.S. Senator Paul M. Simon and the late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington; the support of Simon’s daughter; and the endorsement of most of the state’s major papers, including the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times

      In the March primary, Obama won more support than the other six candidates combined, earning 52% of the vote, fueled by an overwhelming victory in Chicago and surrounding Cook County.


      Plus he led the most successful voter registration drive in Chicago history, certainly not an easy thing to do!  This was really, really hard.  It’s actually Hillary that had 2 easy campaigns (of her own).

      A huge black turnout in November 1992 altered Chicago’s electoral landscape-and raised a new political star: a 31-year-old lawyer named Barack Obama.

      In the final, climactic buildup to November’s general election, with George Bush gaining ground on Bill Clinton in Illinois and the once-unstoppable campaign of senatorial candidate Carol Moseley Braun embroiled in allegations about her mother’s Medicare liability, one of the most important local stories managed to go virtually unreported: The number of new voter registrations before the election hit an all-time high. And the majority of those new voters were black. More than 150,000 new African-American voters were added to the city’s rolls. In fact, for the first time in Chicago’s history-including the heyday of Harold Washington-voter registrations in the 19 predominantly black wards outnumbered those in the city’s 19 predominantly white ethnic wards, 676,000 to 526,000.

      The election, to some degree, turned on these totals: Braun and Clinton had almost unanimous support among blacks. But just as important, if less obvious, are the implications black votership could have for future city and state elections: For the first time in ten years, more than half a million blacks went to the polls in Chicago. And with gubernatorial and mayoral elections coming up in the next two years, it served notice to every¬one from Jim Edgar to Richard M. Daley that an African-American voting bloc would be a force to be reckoned with in those races.

      None of this, of course, was accidental. The most effective minority voter registration drive in memory was the result of careful handiwork by Project Vote!, the local chapter of a not-for-profit national organization. “It was the most efficient campaign I have seen in my 20 years in politics,” says Sam Burrell, alderman of the West Side’s 29th Ward and a veteran of many registration drives.

      At the head of this effort was a little-known 31-year-old African-American lawyer, community organizer, and writer: Barack Obama. The son of a black Kenyan political activist and a white American anthropologist, Obama was born in Hawaii, received a degree in political science and English literature from Columbia University, and, in 1990, became the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. In 1984, after Columbia but before Harvard, Obama moved to Chicago. “I came because of Harold Washington,” he says. “I wanted to do community organizing, and I couldn’t think of a better city than one as energized and hopeful as Chicago was then.” He went to work for a South Side church-affiliated development group and “was heartened by the enthusiasm.” But barely three years later, Washington died, and Obama, convinced he needed additional skills, enrolled at Harvard Law School. The African-American community he left, rent by political divisions and without a clear leader, went into a steep decline. By 1991, when Obama, law degree in hand, returned to Chicago to work on a book about race relations-having turned his back on the Supreme Court clerkship that is almost a given for the law review’s top editor-black voter registration and turnout in the city were at their lowest points since record keeping began.

      Six months after he took the helm of Chicago’s Project Vote!, those conditions had been reversed.

      * * *

      To understand the full implications of Obama’s effort, you first need to understand how voter registration often has worked in Chicago. The Regular Democratic Party spearheaded most drives, doing so using one primary motivator: money. The party would offer bounties to registrars for every new voter they signed up (typically a dollar per registration). The campaigns did produce new voters. “But bounty systems don’t really promote participation,” says David Orr, the Cook County clerk, whose office is responsible for voter registration efforts in the Cook County suburbs. “When the money dries up, the voters drop out.” Nor did the Democratic Party always vigorously push registration among minorities, Orr says. “It’s not that they discouraged it. They just never worked hard to ensure it would happen.”

      So Obama has fought far harder campaigns than Hillary had to in 2000 and 2006.

      You stand corrected…

      • his main opponent in the primary

        had to drop out, didn’t he? Blair Hull? That’s my memory. Then his GOP opponent was a joke.

        • Beating Hillary

          would be quite an achievement for Obama (or whoever may beat her).  I think that definitely counts as a tough fight.  And no matter who wins our spirited primary, he or she will hopefully be well primed for the big fight against the R nominee.

        • THere were still 5 other candidates he won more than them COMBINED

          I do grant you the GOP joke opponent — but you said he had never fought a tough campaign when in fact he had at least 2, plus pulling even or being several points ahead in Iowa alone shows he is a tough campaigner.

          I would have to consider polling first in Iowa against Hillary and Edwards another tough task, wouldn’t you?

          • his media coverage has been hugely favorable

            He’s had way more coverage than Edwards, most of it favorable.

            He’s had about the same coverage as Hillary, but a lot of hers has been unfavorable.

            Obama has never faced the full fury of the mainstream media as the right-wing hate machine feeds lies to journalists.

            A lot of Republicans would prefer to run against Obama for this reason.

            • The problem with this line of logic my friend is that there is little the media can hit him with

              and the right-wing hate machine has been exposed and is no longer very effective.

              Hillary on the other hand has mucho baggage, from new Bill Clinton affairs, to the corruption listed in the NY Times this morning to the war vote she made in 2002, which Edwards co-sponsored.

              Its that Iraq War vote by both Edwards and Clinton without reading the NIE that said there were no WMD that shows poor judgement under fire.  And don’t forget Edwards was the co-sponsor of the Iraq War, saying on the floor: “WE KNOW Saddam has WMDs” – while neither he nor she read the NIE.

              Obama had the good judgement at the same time to declare Iraq a “dumb war”.

  • Reka has at least one really good point

    Why didn’t Clinton run in 2004?  Did she think that Bush was doing a good enough job that it wasn’t really that important to beat him?  Did she think that she was not a better candidate than the rest of the Democratic field?  Did she think he was unbeatable?